Dinner Theater Review: Finnegan's Farewell

“Huh? It starts out at Pickford… I have to, like walk, and stuff?” Yes, you have to walk and stuff, and it’s totally worth it.

As you make your way toward Pickford Auditorium, a motley crew is surrounding the entrance, lingering on the stairs, and chatting on the balcony. The members of CMC’s theater association “Under the Lights” are sporting funeral attire, both appropriate and inappropriate, some are grieving, while others joke and argue in a wide variety of accents. Though much of the dialogue is between characters, every now and then an actor greets you or reins you into an animated conversation. And all of these interactions let you know from the beginning that this funeral service will be far from ordinary.

After the audience members have taken their seats, the pall bearers enter with the casket, bagpipes play, and the grieving family trails the funeral procession. Father Seamus’ opening remarks are riddled with interruptions, outbursts, faux pas, and more than a few breaks from traditional funeral décor. The many small speeches and songs acquaint the audience with each member of the eccentric Finnegan family. Yet, there are still a few oddly heartfelt moments during the service that contrast well with the general dysfunction.

As the funeral service screeches to an unexpected halt, the Finnegan family lawyer attempts to steer it back toward its original course; he stands and invites all of the guests to proceed to Vinnie’s reception hall. The pall bearers exit and the rest of the funeral party leaves with the audience as they make their way to the Athenaeum. The entertainment never stops as the actors engage with you and carry on scattered conversations with each other during the short trek.

Once you arrive at Vinnie’s, a new group of characters is there to meet you and welcome you to Paddy Finnegan’s wake. To the left of the entrance there is an array of family photos on display, and just beyond that is a bar with Irish beers and spirits. Again, characters and audience members alike take their seats around the dance floor. While the dinner progresses, the actors sit amongst the dinner guests and play their parts during the slight intermission, adding energy and color to the meal.

Before long, the characters begin to recite toasts and limericks, perform songs and dances, and make sure to get the audience members in on the action. From group renditions of traditional Irish songs, to performances of more modern favorites, these actors transform dramatic subject matter into a hugely comical production.

Director, Zeben Kopchak '12 admitted that “it was a hectic, but enjoyable experience. It takes a lot of work to bring a production together and it was a real pleasure to see that happen.” When asked what he enjoyed about tonight's performance, Wade Vaughn '13 noted that “the best part of participating in the play is getting to interact with the audience members. There’s a lot of joy in making people laugh. Special thanks to Sanskriti Ayyer '13 for singing with me on an empty casket.”

Overall the performance is much more than a show; it is an experience where you become one of the players. For a night of singing, dancing, excess amounts of laughter, and an unexpected plot twist, you won’t want to miss a performance that will keep you on your toes until the very end.

Haven't signed up to see the play yet? Lucky for you, there's still time! 

Sign up here on the CMC website.